One of the sections I loved most about Malcolm GladwellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s The Tipping Point was where he wrote about Airwalk Shoes. Airwalk Shoes had built a great brand with the hard core skating market. But they wanted to increase their market size and try to make the shoe more mainstream. Airwalk hired a great ad agency who strategized how to diffuse the brand into the mainstream, but without losing their edge in their core market of skaters. Their plan included a segmentation strategy that would push a more esoteric, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Special EditionÃ¢â‚¬? shoe in the skate shops for $80, while pushing out a slightly less edgy version of their shoe in stores like Foot Locker for $60. This plan worked. The plan worked right up to the moment they killed the program. When skaters lost their edgy shoes, they lost interest in the brands. Everyone wants to be part of an exclusive club.
One big transformation that happened in the 90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s is that American consumers decided they wanted everything to be Ã¢â‚¬Å“professional gradeÃ¢â‚¬?. We buy refrigerators that are the sizes of Minivans on their sides, and freezing isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cold enough. We buy Hummers because if they can handle a direct assault from an Iraqi squad, it can handle driving in the snow while taking the kids to school. We know that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not the same exact machine the military uses, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the brand that matters. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what Airwalk did.
Now letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s look at mySpace. This site seemed to come from nowhere. One day we woke up, and this was in our world. The first time I visited mySpace was because someone told me to check it out. My friend found out because a mutual friend suggested it had hotter girls than Match.com. Asking people younger than I about it, they say they found it because of music groups. How ever we found mySpace, and even if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use it, no one can argue that it became huge through viral marketing. And that creates a sort of private club feel with its members. That feeling is going away quick.
mySpace has taken a beating lately. A recent news story on Dateline showing older men show up at a house for sex, lured there by Dateline producers with the offer of sex with underage girls, mentioned mySpace on several occasions. But the image they always showed was of other chat rooms like Yahoo Chat. People have criticized Fox News for repeatedly mentioning mySpace in a fashion that seems to be promoting the site. Think about that for a moment. Why would Fox News need to promote mySpace? How many people watching Bill OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Reilly would be interested in mySpace? But whatever the reason, the mainstream push continues.
Now Fox has decided to integrate mySpace in one of their shows that rank right up there with Bill OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Reilly in perceived cool factor, American Idol. At 34 years old, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to pretend to understand what teenagers today find cool. But, I do know one rule in cool that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change; once it involves your parents, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no longer cool. Maybe some teenagers who like hanging out with their parents will argue this, but that makes them a dork. By bringing mySpace this mainstream, Fox is showing how un-cool they are. A company run by an old, very right wing guy that employs someone like Bill OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Reilly, doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand the Web. So, his people put one of the most successful virally marketed sites in history on his show with an obnoxious brit and has been pop star.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m no saying the show isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t popular. I know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a huge ratings grabber. But, this move will be the next nail in the coffin for mySpace. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next, a mySpace page for the next Repuclican candidate? mySpace promotion for the NRA? How about a mySpace section where you can cross link to your mom and dadÃ¢â‚¬ ¦you know, to show that you have family values. mySpace is not Yahoo, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about edge and exclusivity. Old people, including me, are not invited.
There are already other platforms coming up quickly. They will learn from the mistakes of mySpace and figure out a way to become even stickier to their members.
As for the original spirit of Tom, and mySpace, I have this to say; for those about to suck, I salute you.